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Chronic Pain: Does Moderate Alcohol Consumption Decrease Severity?


March 18, 2019

In patients with chronic pain, moderate alcohol consumption was associated with decreased pain severity, increased physical function, and lower somatic and mood symptoms, according to the results of a recent study.

Past evidence has suggested that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with improved health outcomes, including reduced heart disease risk. The effects of consumption on chronic pain, however, are less well understood.

Researchers from the University of Michigan conducted a study involving 2583 patients presenting at a university pain clinic, 592 of whom reported drinking with 502 classified as moderate drinkers. The researchers used general linear models to assess the effects of drinking on pain and symptom outcomes.

Overall, the researchers found that patients who were moderate alcohol users reported significantly lower pain severity, interference, anxiety, depression, and catastrophizing, as well as higher physical function. In patients meeting fibromyalgia criteria, moderate drinking was associated with lower pain severity, interference, and depression, as well as higher physical function.

“It could be a stepping stone to increased quality of life, leading to more social interactions,” concluded Ryan Scott, MPH. “Fibromyalgia patients in particular have a lot of psychological trauma, anxiety and catastrophizing, and allowing for the occasional drink might increase social habits and overall health.”

—Michael Potts

References:

  1. Scott JR, Hassett AL, Schrepf AD, et al. Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced pain and fibromyalgia symptoms in chronic pain patients. Pain Medicine. 2018;19(12):2515-2527.
  2. Moderate alcohol intake associated with less chronic pain, depression [press release]. March 5, 2019. https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/lab-report/moderate-alcohol-intake-associated-less-chronic-pain-depression.
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